Fast Start Options:
- Start in the action, at a moment of change. Then work in the back story if needed.
- Start with two people on the page.
- Start with a scene, with action and dialogue. Use description and summary modestly, and only if really needed.
- Start in the middle of a fight or other conflict.
- Start with a cliffhanger – something powerful about to happen.
- The inciting incident – the problem that gets the story going – should happen as soon as possible, but not until the moment is ripe. The reader must have enough understanding of the character and situation to make the incident meaningful. Too soon, and the reader is confused. Too late, and the reader gets bored first.
- Try starting with a small problem that leads to the big problem, or is an example of the main problem.
- See also “Beginnings” Label in the right-hand column.
· Use the rule of three – the main character should try and fail at least twice before solving the problem on the third try. In long works, use this for each challenge.
· Increase the complications – at each step, more is at stake, there’s greater risk. If each scene has the same level of risk and consequence, the pacing is flat and the middle sags.
· Up the ante – offer a better reward or more serious consequences.
· A time deadline increases tension.
· Give it a twist – new information that changes everything but still makes sense (Darth Vader is Luke’s father).
· If you get stuck on “What happens next?” try looking from the antagonist’s POV. What are they doing to stop your character? Other characters can also add complications.
· Keep your chapters short, and make sure every one has dramatic action.
· Use the Plot Outline Exercise from Advanced Plotting
· More important and dramatic events should be written out in detail, others can be summarized.
· Use shorter words and sentences to speed the pace.
· See also “Plotting” Label right-hand column.
Story Analysis Resources:
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King
- Scene & Structure, Jack M. Bickham
- Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman
- Advanced Plotting: a tool for analyzing your plot, articles on fast starts, developing middles, plot points, cliffhangers, and more advice on making your work stronger.
- The Plot Arc Exercise as a free Word download
- Chris’s Write Like a Pro! blog has writing craft tips.
- Visit Blockbuster Plots for Writers for a test that shows whether your writing is more character driven or plot driven.
- Story analysis at Doug Eboch’s blog on Screenwriting
- Strong starts, by Keith Cronin
- Ways to look at plot arc by Jan Fields: a mountain or a pit?
- Plot Maps by Lee Wardlaw, Project Mayhem
- Example of plot mapping via Caroline Starr Rose
- The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet
- Links to cool plot tools via Molly Blaisdell
- Janet Fox’s Diagram of Plot Points for different systems
- Dianne K. Salerni shares her plotting technique
- Beyond Story Mountains & Arcs: The Many Shapes of Stories, by Vicki Vinton shows how to analyze the stories of others.
- QueryTracker: How to Plot (or Revise) Your Book
- Annie Neugebauer's Novel Plotting Worksheet
- Jenny Meyerhoff's Plotting Worksheet
Chris Eboch’s book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer. If you struggle with plot or suspect your plotting needs work, this book can help. Use the Plot Outline Exercise to identify and fix plot weaknesses. Learn how to get off to a fast start, prop up a sagging middle, build to a climax, improve your pacing, and more.
Get Advanced Plotting from Amazon
Chris offers novel critiques for $2 per page ($100 minimum). Contact Chris for details and recommendations.
You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers offers an overview on writing for young people. Learn how to find ideas and develop those ideas into stories, articles, and books. Understand the basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme – and some advanced elements, along with how to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts. Finally, learn about editing your work and getting critiques.
You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.
Chris Eboch is the author of over 50 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs.
Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page.
Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Kris Bock writes action-packed romantic suspense involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows a treasure hunt in New Mexico and has been called “Smart romance with an Indiana Jones feel.”
Counterfeits starts a new series about art theft. What We Found is a mystery with romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. Whispers in the Dark involves intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page. All books are free with Kindle Unlimited.